Dirofilaria immitis

Heartworm, also known as Dirofilaria immitis, is a parasite that is transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes; thus, your pet doesn’t even have to come into touch with other animals for it to get infected.

The life cycle of heartworm is rather intricate. Heartworms in their immature form, known as microfilaria, can be found circulating in the bloodstreams of infected dogs. Mosquitoes may pick up microfilariae from the blood of sick dogs when they feed on the blood of other affected dogs.

Your pet may get infected with heartworm disease from a single bite from a mosquito that is carrying the disease. The juvenile parasite grows into a heartworm larva while it is still within the mosquito. As the worms develop within the heart, they have the potential to produce a physical obstruction in addition to the swelling of the heart and the blood arteries that are linked with it.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

During the early stages of the illness, many dogs exhibit very few symptoms, if any at all. The longer the infection is allowed to continue, the greater the likelihood that symptoms may appear. More obvious clinical signs are often seen in high-activity dogs, dogs with severe heartworm infection, or dogs with preexisting health conditions.

A slight cough that lingers for an extended period, unwillingness to move, weariness after moderate exertion, reduced appetite, as well as weight loss are all possible symptoms of heartworm illness. As the heartworm condition persists, affected dogs develop heart failure as well as the appearance of a bloated belly owing to an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen.

Dogs infected with many heartworms are at risk for developing unexpected obstructions of blood flow inside the heart, which may lead to a type of cardiovascular collapse that is potentially fatal. This condition is known as caval syndrome, and it is characterized by the rapid onset of laborious breathing, pale gums, and urine that is either dark crimson or the color of coffee. If the obstruction caused by heartworms is not promptly removed surgically, very few dogs will survive.

Heartworm Prevention

Prevention of heartworm disease in dogs should be a primary priority for everybody who owns a dog. The good news is that heartworm can be easily avoided, and this should be a regular component of your pet’s preventative health care. Prevention is a key component of essential care, and preventing heartworm disease in dogs is something that can be done by every owner.

Treatments that prevent heartworm disease are available in a variety of formats, such as monthly chewable tablets, topical medications that are applied in a “spot on” fashion, and an injectable drug that is administered every six or twelve months. Only preventative medication that has been prescribed by a veterinarian is available to treat heartworm disease. Tablets, chews, spot-on treatments, and even a yearly injectable for dogs that is given by one of our veterinarians are just some of the preventive treatment options that we have available and that are highly successful.

Before beginning a heartworm prevention program for your pet, we highly suggest that you first have your pet undergo a heartworm test. This should be followed by a second test about six months after beginning the program.

The parasites that can be prevented by various preventatives vary, with some protecting simply against heartworms, others against both heartworms and intestinal parasites, and still others against a wide range of parasites. Because veterinarians are aware of the types of parasites that are prevalent in the region in which they work, pet owners should consult with their animal specialist about the product or products that will be most effective for their animals.

What do I need to know about heartworm testing?

Heartworm infestation is a dangerous condition that worsens with time. The sooner it is diagnosed, the higher the likelihood that the pet will make a full recovery. Because there are few, if any, early indications of illness when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, it is crucial to identify their existence with a heartworm test that is done by a veterinarian. Since there are no early signs of disease. Your pet will need to provide a very little blood sample for the test, and its is then used in determining whether or not heartworm proteins are present. While some vets do the testing for heartworms onsite in their facilities, others send the samples out to an outside diagnostic laboratory.

When should my dog be tested?

Heartworm infestation is a dangerous condition that worsens with time. The sooner it is diagnosed, the higher the likelihood that the pet will make a full recovery. Because there are few, if any, early indications of illness when a dog or cat is infected with heartworms, it is crucial to identify their existence with a heartworm test that is done by a veterinarian. Since there are no early signs of disease. Your pet will need to provide a very little blood sample for the test, and its is then used in determining whether or not heartworm proteins are present. While some vets do the testing for heartworms onsite in their facilities, others send the samples out to an outside diagnostic laboratory.

The following are some recommendations about testing and timing:

  • Puppies less than seven months old may be given heartworm prevention without first undergoing a heartworm test (it takes approximately six months for a dog to test positive for heartworm infection once it has been infected); however, they must be tested six months following their initial visit, tested once six months later, then tested annually after that to confirm that they do not have heartworm infection.
  • Before beginning heartworm prevention, adult dogs that are above seven months old and have not been on a preventative in the past are required to get a test. Also, they need to be checked after six months, then again after 12 months, and then once a year after that.
  • If there has been a break in the preventative regimen (one or more doses that were given late or were skipped altogether), the dog must be tested as soon as possible, then tested again after six months, and then yearly after that.

What If the Dogs Have Been Given Heartworm Treatment?

Even when dogs are given a heartworm preventative treatment that is effective throughout the year, annual testing is still required to verify that the preventive program is successful. Although heartworm treatments are quite successful, it is still possible for dogs to get the disease. Even if you’re just late with one dosage of a monthly medicine or forget to administer it altogether, your dog may not be protected. Even if you give your dog the medicine exactly as directed, it is possible for the heartworm pill to be spat out or vomited up, or for a topical drug to be rubbed off. The medications that prevent heartworm infection are quite successful, but they are not foolproof. If you choose not to get your dog tested, you won’t be able to determine whether or not your dog needs treatment. Speak to us about testing and preventative measures.

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